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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Tilt Toward Macro

Tilt-shift lenses provide faster shutter speeds and wider apertures for close-up photography

Optics In A  Digital World Whether they call it macro, close-up or micro, many photographers are attracted to intimate photography. The opportunity to observe natural subjects and to photograph them, at life-size or larger, is a magical experience. Close-up subjects can appear unfamiliar and otherworldly, flowers can become abstractions, and insects can take on enormous proportions.

Macro photography, however, presents its own peculiar challenges in producing sharp images. The closer the lens is to the subject, the smaller the depth of field, or zone of sharp focus, becomes, and it’s essential to maximize the depth of field, especially at higher magnifications. At the small apertures and slow shutter speeds required to accomplish maximum depth of field with a regular lens, the slightest breeze or movement on the part of an animated subject becomes a serious aggravation.

For macro photographers, a tilt-shift lens (otherwise known as perspective control) can be an effective tool, and it might become the macro lens of choice. Derived from bellows-style view cameras, tilt-shift lenses for single-lens reflex cameras have been around for a number of years. Their unique design allows the lens' front elements to be tilted (angled) or shifted up and down or side to side. The advantage of this configuration for macro photography is that by tilting the front of the lens to be parallel to the plane of the subject, the apparent zone of sharp focus is enhanced.

With ordinary lenses, only closing down the aperture, which requires slower shutter speeds for correct exposures, increases maximum depth of field. The tilt mechanism of tilt-shift lenses makes it possible to use larger apertures and faster shutter speeds and still keep the entire subject in focus. Breezy conditions become much less troublesome, and escaping subjects can be photographed with less risk of blur.


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